“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” –Romans 8:2
Question: What is the law of the Spirit of life? And what is the law of sin and death?
Answer: To understand what Paul is referring to, it is always helpful to observe the context. In the book of Romans, Paul is offering a systematic and detailed explanation of the gospel. Simply stated, the gospel is that man is unable to reach God and please him by doing good deeds. The only way we can please God and be with him is through the work of Jesus Christ. As he argues this point, he sometimes uses “law” to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the five books of Moses (Rom. 2:17-24). Other times he uses “law”, not referring to a specific command (such as only drive 45 mph on First Ave.), but referring to more of a binding contract one partakes in (Rom. 7:1-3). This is the context he uses throughout chapter seven and it is the meaning that he carries into chapter eight as well.
There is an old “binding contract” that we were once under, but now there is a new “binding contract” that we are under (Rom. 7:6). The original contract or law was sin and death. This is an implicit agreement in nature that everyone who sins deserves to die (Rom. 6:23). Even those who have never read a Bible naturally understand this law (Rom. 1:32). Even those who live on an island never reached with the gospel recognize the law of sin and death: if you sin you should die (Acts 28:4). We are all bound by it and unfortunately since every one of us has sinned, we all deserve death because of this contract (Rom. 3:23). Paul explains that the only way to be freed from this law/contract is to die (Rom. 7:1-3). If someone has been sentenced to death they carry that sentence with them everywhere until they finally die. But if they die they have fulfilled the sentence and are released. Paul says that Christ died on our behalf to fulfill our sentence. We have died through him and are now released from this contract (Rom. 7:4).
Our death is not final because like Christ we have been raised to life. We have a new life now. We are under a new contract, a new law. In this new law, we are no longer slaving away at good works in order to continue never being good enough. We are now empowered by God, who has already declared us righteous, with the ability to truly act righteously and please God (Rom. 7:6). He refers to it as the “law of the Spirit of life” because it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this new life.